We got a "satisfactory" according to the inspectors...

15th June 2007 at 01:00
Q We got a "satisfactory" according to the inspectors, which we are delighted about, but it has been tempered by the news that when it is verified by the "pen pushers" next week they could change the judgment and make us subject to a notice to improve (NTI). How can that be? Surely the people who have spent the time in our school have a better impression of what we can do than the people at their desks in London (or wherever they are).AAs someone who each week is both an inspector spending time in school and also one of those "pen pushers" who quality assures reports, I am reasonably well placed to explain. Inspection judgments are made by the inspectors in the school. It is they who look at the first-hand evidence and record it on their evidence forms. It is they who write the report.

When they feed back judgments at the end of the inspection, they will explain their report and evidence will be subject to quality assurance checks and that can result in changes. When the lead inspector has completed their draft report and feels happy that it is ready for publication, it is checked by a quality assurance mentor (QAM). That person is likely to be an experienced inspector but will not be someone who was at the school. It isn't their job to second-guess the inspection team and substitute their views. What they are doing is checking that the report complies fully with Ofsted's formal reporting requirements, that it tells the story of the school, that it is consistent (both internally and with the grades given) and that it explains the inspection findings clearly, convincingly and without jargon. If a report does not do all of these things, the QAM will indicate what changes need to be made. Sometimes that will be done by posing questions to the lead inspector, but sometimes it will involve the QAM redrafting sections of the report. This process of questioning might result in the lead inspector reviewing and changing a grade. However, the school's overall effectiveness judgment would not be changed downwards. It would not be appropriate for a school to be issued a notice to improve (NTI) after the inspection if they had been told that they were satisfactory when inspectors were in the school. Because all reports are published in the name of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, they are also individually checked by an HMI before they are published. Changes can sometimes be made at this sign-off stage but, again, they would not involve moving a school from satisfactory to NTI

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question contact him at askaninspector@tes.co.ukSelwyn regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at www.tes.co.ukstaffroominspection

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